Kelley throws bullpen, expects timely return
Woodward confident in Odor; Rangers employ 'opener' for first time in 2019
HOUSTON -- Rangers reliever Shawn Kelley rejoined the team on Saturday and threw a bullpen session before the game against the Astros. Kelley is on the 10-day injured list, but he said he expects to be ready to return when he is eligible on Thursday against the Royals.
Kelley is sidelined with what is being described as an “infection.” The Rangers haven’t released any other details, and Kelley is not ready to elaborate.
“Physically, I feel great,” Kelley said “I have a little bit of a health issue going on that’s not related to baseball. I’ve been doing some examinations and seeing some doctors back in town, so I needed to be in Arlington and away from the team for a few days. But as far as physically, I feel great. I’m going to throw a bullpen today and work out and hang out in the dugout and cheer on the boys.”
Kelley said he has known about his situation for some time, but he became troubled enough earlier this week to get further examination.
“Concerning enough where I needed to take a step back and get checked on,” Kelley said. “I feel good about being ready, whenever that is. That’s why I’m going to throw a couple of bullpens while I’m doing all of this. That way, I can jump right back in.”
Kelley is 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA, 0.71 WHIP and three saves in 14 appearances this season. The Rangers had moved him into the closer’s role after José Leclerc's early season struggles. Chris Martin is serving as the Rangers' closer during Kelley’s absence.
Santana not unseating Odor
Rangers manager Chris Woodward wanted to get switch-hitting Danny Santana in the lineup on Saturday, so he played him in the outfield and gave Nomar Mazara a day off.
Santana is hitting .307 so Woodward wants to keep his bat going. Woodward had the same urge with Hunter Pence, who has worked his way into a regular role on the team now that Delino DeShields has been optioned to Triple-A Nashville.
Santana can also play second base, but Woodward doesn’t see him displacing Rougned Odor as an everyday player. Odor entered Saturday hitting .132, but he is still batting sixth in the Rangers lineup.
“Rougned is going to be one of our best players for a long time,” Woodward said. “I have trust in him. Going through a little bit of struggles is going to be good for him. It’s going to show the whole team -- this is how a championship player handles himself in failure. He’ll be fine. I trust him and his process and his character. He’ll get out of it.”
Going with the 'opener'
Right-handed reliever Jesse Chavez started for the Rangers on Saturday night, marking the first time Woodward has used an “opener” this season. Chavez opened for left-handed starter Drew Smyly, who pitched against the Astros on April 19 and allowed three runs in the first inning against a right-handed dominant lineup.
“This is the first time we have done it, and it is May 11,” Woodward said. “I don’t foresee us doing it a ton. With this team, it makes sense. The most vulnerable time in the game is the first at-bat, and it’s the best hitters in their lineup, positioned the way the other team wants them.
“So, if you can combat that by pitching more of a leverage guy and get you through that inning, the starting pitcher only has to face the top of the order twice. Stats show the third time around, no matter how good you are, not too many pitchers get better the third time around.”
• The Rangers used the “opener” five times last season, all in September. They did it twice each with Jeffrey Springs and Connor Sadzeck and once with Alex Claudio.
• Lance Lynn threw 118 pitches over seven innings in a 3-0 loss to the Astros on Friday night. That is the most pitches thrown by a Rangers pitcher since Yu Darvish threw 125 against the Angels on April 29, 2017.
• This was the second loss this season for Lynn in which he allowed three or less runs in seven innings. He took a 3-1 loss to the Angels on April 5. The only other Major League pitcher with two such losses is Max Scherzer.